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Magic City Losing its Luster

News flash . . . Magic City is losing its luster.

Where do we begin to tell this story? Was it the proliferation of big corporations that "The Magic Fund" sought to, and successfully wooed into our midst?

Was it the shortage of housing that this proliferation of workers brought into our community?

And finally, was it the deluge of water that came with the 2011 flood that washed away the last sparkle of a community that valued family and home above all else?

  • I have a friend. We'll call Bob. He is a young man (by my standards, anyway) who is a single father of a 14 year-old-girl. Recently diagnosed with an infection in his spinal column he has been hooked up to a drip of antibiotics for two weeks. He has full time care. During this home hospice period he received an eviction notice from his landlord. When he called his landlord he was told that the rent was being raised from $900 mo. to $1900 mo. and, assuming he couldn't afford it, sent an eviction notice instead. And yes, the landlord was right! No one who doesn't work in the oil fields can afford that!
  • I have another friend (wow! that's two already) -- we'll call Anastasia (I have always wanted a friend named Anastasia -- although I imagine she would be hard to compete with). She has a FEMA trailer. The cost to heat her trailer for two weeks in October was close to $200. And it was still cold.
  • That's it. I have no more friends. Just people who I feel need a voice . . . like the hundreds of displaced manufactured home owners who can't find a lot, or get assistance from many resources-- because they don't have a "STICK HOME."
  • There are families moving out because the waters also washed away many childcare facilities . . . a scarce resource prior to the flood and now almost non-existant.

I imagine I could go on and on. I kvetch about the injustices done in our community from the people I love to the people I barely know to families that I feel for although I have never met. And I have no answers.

I do know, however, that my ideal community values core family tradition above growth and prosperity. My ideal community sounds like childrens' laughter, smells like backyard family barbecue and looks like Main Street at Christmas time.

I drive by Oak Park every day on my way to work. Past the vacant houses -- standing ghostlike, some skeletal and others with open doors and broken windows, piles of belongings still sitting alongside curbs. They lie waiting for the first snowfall to bury what was left of the lives that they once contained. Few have signs on the lawns "I'm Coming Back!" Some have FEMA trailers filling up the back and front yards where children once sang and played. There are no hopscotch marks on the sidewalk and the only bikes lay in the rubbish alongside the curb.

I drive by Oak Park every day. "America's Favorite Park!" which just received a grant for $100,000 from Coca Cola to rebuild. I voted. I voted about 100 times for my favorite park. But, I am afraid the question has not become "Where will the children play?" the question has become "Will there be any children left to play?" Let me add this to our growing list of the "Haves and the Have Nots" in "The Once Magic City." Have parks! Have not children to play in them!